Outdoor workers

Plan ahead to ensure necessary measures for preventing UV radiation exposure and heat-related illness are implemented. These measures include:

Eliminating the hazard

  • where possible, relocating outdoor work so it is done in a covered, well ventilated building/structure that is not exposed to radiant heat sources (eg: pre-cast slabs, trusses etc can be made in a factory and then assembled on site later)
  • drone technology, remote sensors or other technology can be used in many industry sectors to:
    • avoid the need for workers to be exposed to the heat, work alone or remotely
    • remotely monitor agriculture, crops, livestock, fences and dams instead of requiring a worker to physically check them
    • monitor and identify problems in the infrastructure systems of public utility companies (gas, electricity and water suppliers) therefore reducing the need for workers to be exposed to environmental extremes

Isolating the hazard

  • start work on the shady side of the building, and following the shade around the building as the day progresses
  • locate hot processes away from people

Engineering controls

  • provide technology:
    • to help overcome the hazards faced by solitary workers
    • to assist colleagues to monitor workers working remotely
    • to monitor the work environment
  • provide an air-conditioned shed for rest breaks (near the areas where work is being done so workers use it).
  • provide screens, umbrellas, canopies or awnings over sections of the site to create shade where work is being carried out
  • increase air movement and remove heated air using evaporative coolers or fans
  • use chiller units, in extreme cases, to relieve air temperature and humidity, eg: when working in enclosed roof spaces
  • provide cooling vests for workers to wear
  • provide suitable communication systems that function in remote and isolated areas, particularly black spots (mobile telephone, satellite phone, personal duress alarm, emergency beacon)
  • provide mechanical equipment to reduce the need for strenuous physical work
  • place reflective shields and barriers to reduce radiant heat spots (such as unshaded outdoor cement areas; around generators and other large powered equipment)

Administration controls

  • reschedule work so the hot tasks are performed during the cooler part of the day or in cooler times of the year
  • plan work routines so outdoor work tasks are done:
    • early in the morning or later in the afternoon, when the levels of ultra-violet radiation (UVR) from the sun are lower
    • indoors or in shaded areas during the middle of the day when the levels of UVR from the sun are strongest
  • provide easy access to lots of cool drinking water. Locate it near each work area to encourage frequent drinking
  • provide regular rest breaks - particularly when the work is very physical. The frequency and length of the break should be increased if the conditions become hotter and/or more humid -  up to 30 minutes break every hour, in a cooler area, to help the body cool off.
  • implement an effective ‘buddy system’ where workers check each other frequently to ensure they are:
    • drinking enough water – a small cup (200ml) of water every 15 – 20 minutes
    • eating regular meals and snacks (to help replace salt and electrolytes lost through sweating)
    • taking appropriate breaks, and
    • are not showing signs of heat-related illness
  • provide access to crushed ice (to ingest and for use as ice towel) where possible
  • ensure the work is paced to meet the conditions. Where possible, allow workers to self-pace (set their own work rate) so they are comfortable
  • ensure workers are used to working in the heat and not taking medication that will affect their ability to cope with heat. Ease new workers – or those returning after more a week’s leave – into a hot workplace gradually, allocating extra breaks and slowly increasing their workload
  • reduce the length of shifts
  • arrange for more workers to do the job
  • share outdoor tasks between rotating staff so the same workers are not always out in the sun
  • implement effective communication procedures, such as:
    • regular contact with staff working alone or in remote and isolated locations
    • a movement itinerary for mobile workers with regular “location to base” checks
    • a means of tracking a worker if they do not return when scheduled
  • make provision for first aid treatment and emergency medical assistance
  • provide suitable supervision of all workers

Training 

Training must be provided and include how to:

  • work safely in the heat
  • identify hazards associated with working in heat, including personal factors (medication, illness, fitness /obesity, pregnancy)
  • identify warning signs they can look out for
  • recognise symptoms of heat heat-related illness
  • identify the type of treatment required
  • understand how to avoid heat illness
  • recognise the potential dangers associated with the use of alcohol and/or drugs when working in heat, and
  • use appropriate protective clothing (including any restrictions on personal clothing that may be worn underneath) and any equipment to be worn, used  and/or carried
  • how to report heat-related illness incidents immediately.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

PPE should be provided and should be:

  • comfortable to wear
  • task-specific
  • long-sleeved collared shirts and long pants that are made of suitable (UPF) 50+ rated material / fabric
  • a suitable wide brimmed hat
  • SPF 30+ sunscreen and lip balm, and
  • appropriate wraparound sunglasses.

Ensure a workplace policy is in place stating what personal clothing workers can wear underneath any overalls or other protective clothing, as it could contribute to them being at risk of heat-related illness.

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